View Full Version : Are quick/readyloads really lighter?

8-Jul-2004, 16:07
In my quest to reduce my backpacking pack weight I started wondering at what point readyloads become heavier than regular sheet film in holders. My thinking was that by carrying 5 holders, I would have 10 sheets available per session. That adds up to 20 sheets per day. For a 7 day 6 night trip this means 120 sheets of film. With readyloads and a readyload holder this would weigh 82.8 ounces. Sheet film with 5 fidelity holders would weigh 67.5 ounces. This is almost a 1 pound weight savings. Furthermore, the cost for the film is 130 bucks cheaper at B&H. Thus, my conclusion is that readyloads are only good for ultralight day hikes and overnight trips. On longer trips weight savings and cost savings dictate the use of holders and regular sheet film.

Michael Chmilar
8-Jul-2004, 16:51
Have you added in the weight of a film changing bag/tent? Or are you planning to load the film holders at night-time? At night, moonlight might be strong enough to fog your film - you might get away with using a sleeping bag as a night-time changing bag.

Scott Rosenberg
8-Jul-2004, 16:52
hi phillip... there are two very informative articles on Paul Butzi's site. the one dealing with the issue you raised is here:


he found that even when carrying very small numbers of film, the quick/ready loads offer a weight savings.

i started with grafamatic backs, but quickly moved to quickloads and have NEVER regretted it. the only drawback to the system, assuming your emulsions are available, is cost. film is the least expensive part of my photography.

good luck, scott

John Kasaian
8-Jul-2004, 17:09
Of course you could rent or buy a pack mule---then you can take all kinds of stuff along (like 5 litre boxes of almaden golden chablis!)---Cheers!

QT Luong
8-Jul-2004, 17:24
Paul Butzi's article assumes that all the film is carried in holders, not in boxes. Strictly from a point of view of weight, Philip is totally right. A light changing bag suitable for 4x5 weights only 5oz, so this hardly counts. Another advantage of film boxes is compactness. Fifty quickloads are much more bulky than a box of 50 sheets of fim. However, other factors are to be considered in favor of preloaded film, such as having clean film, and not having to reload when you've been hiking all day, it's already 11pm, and you need to get up the next day at 5am for sunrise.

Bruce Watson
8-Jul-2004, 19:04
I find that on a longish hike, I need 20 sheets available. Say, for the hike from Yosemite valley up to Nevada falls and back. There's no time in there for spending the better part of an hour with your hands in a film changing tent. Besides, there's no place to wash up - and I for one don't like the idea of trying to unload, clean, and reload filmholders while covered in sun-block. The potential for really nasty fingerprints is just huge. I won't even talk about the dust in the deserts.

But... it really doesn't matter. Ain't no Tri-X (or any other 400 speed film for that matter) available in readyload/quickload format. So it's a moot point for me. I'm schlep'n 10 standard film holders up the mountain because Kodak's bean counters won't allow their best selling B&W film in readyloads. Silly Kodak - if they would sell, I would buy.

Bruce Watson
8-Jul-2004, 19:27
OK. I weighted some stuff. Here's what I found:

Using a postal scale, I compared 20 sheets of T-Max 100 in film holders and readyload format. My ten film holders, loaded, in a light weight nylon carrying case, weigh in at about 2.20 kg (4.85lbs). A readyload holder, in its nylon case, and 20 sheets of T-Max 100 in readyload format, weigh in at about 0.77 kg (1.7lbs). That's a weight savings of about 1.43 kg (3.15 lbs), or 65%.

I don't know where the crossover point is. To me, if I need 20 sheets in a day and don't want to carry or use a changing bag, readyloads offer a huge weight savings.

So tell me again why exactly the bean counters don't want the extra USD 30.00 I'd pay to have my 20 sheets of Tri-X in readyload format?

8-Jul-2004, 20:15
Philip, thanks for the info, for me it was a real eye-opener -- I never would have guessed that trad filmholders would work out lighter. However for me, the advantages of ReadyLoads are so valuable that I gladly pay the extra money, gladly carry an extra pound or two, and even stoop to using T-Max instead of Tri-X.

Kerry L. Thalmann
9-Jul-2004, 00:05

An interesting exercise, but you've made some assumptions that directly impact your conclusions. Like Hogarth, I could not get by with only five holders (ten sheets). I'd need to reload twice a day (once mid-day and once at night). I'd rather spend my time enjoying myself and working on taking pictures than cleaning and loading film holders twice a day (knowing my luck, I'd use up that precious 10th sheet right before that once in a lifetime shot presented itself). Therefore, I'd need twice as many holders as you assumed and there go your calculated weight savings. There are countless combinations of quantity of holders, number of shots per day and length of trip. For every combination that supports your conclusion that conventional holders are lighter, there is another equally reasonable set that favor film packets.

Ultimately, I'd rather know I have all the film I need - when I need it - without having to stop and reload. I'd also rather enjoy my time in the field without worrying about dust on the film (if I used conventional holders, I'd end up shooting extra in camera dupes just in case dust ended up on that one shot I really liked - so factor in the extra cost and weight of those in camera "insurance" dupes as well) So, I'm an admitted film packet junkie - but not a pusher. Use what works for you and justify it any way you can. I know I do.


9-Jul-2004, 00:39
This is very interesting. I don't know any LF shooters that shoot 120 frames in 6-7 days of hiking/camping. 20 frames a day..... I don't think I have ever shot more than half that on my busiest day. I try to put a little more time and thought into it than that!

BTW Phillip, did you take into account the weight of the full 2 boxes (min) of film as well? Three full 50 sht boxes alone will weigh more than the 5 boxes of quickloads, not to mention the holders.

Jean-Louis Llech
9-Jul-2004, 04:45
Philip, my two cents...
<li>About the Quickload, it might be better to take two holders rather than one. I you have a problem with a unique holder, your journey is over. Otherwise, you can use the spare one. Take the weight of two into account.
<li>With the Quickloads, you have to carry two holders, films, and a piece of rag to clean the holders. That's all.
<li>With conventional sheet-film holders, you have to carry :
a) your 5 holders,
b) film boxes,
c) empty boxes to store exposed films (don't forget that, not for weight but for volume in the bag),
d) one air can (or more, if you reload the holders frequently),
e) a changing bag, or maybe a changing tent (heavier),
f) a spare slide.
<li>With the Quickload, you have to carry the holders, film boxes, and a piece of cloth to clean the holders. That's all.
<li>The Quickload is lighter than 5 sheet film holders. But obviously, Quickload films are heavier than classic sheet-films.
The main difference is that you don't need all these accessories, and that you have less to care with dust.
<li>At night, you'll probably be tired, and unloading, cleaning, reloading sheet-film holders will be a hassle.
<li>If you load for example your 5 holders with BW film, and then on the field you prefer to use color films, you'll have to unload some holders, and then reload them with color films.
With a Quickload, you load the film into the holder only when you decide the kind of film you'll use. That's priceless.
IMO, there is no comparison, the Quickload is better.

9-Jul-2004, 04:59
Tuan is right. My changing bag weighs 5.5 ounces.

Butzi's site assumes that you load every holder before you leave. I can't imagine carrying 60 holders. Ouch!

When I graphed this in excel the weight for the readyloads is equal to the weight of the holders/film at 70 sheets. Factor in the changing bag and you're up to 84 sheets. I did account for the boxes too. This included one extra as the first in-box.

I think dust could be dealt with by carefully selecting when to change the film in the holders.

From this I would conclude that quickloads are lighter for trips up to about four days. For longer trips, a decision needs to be made. What about a 15-20 day trip like trekking in Nepal?

Ellis Vener
9-Jul-2004, 07:16

Have you ever tried changing film in dusty, hot, or very cold conditions? And when you are exhausted because you are hiking at high altitudes?

Erik Sherman
9-Jul-2004, 07:30
On a longer trek, I'd expect to need to set a cache or two along the way for food and water, if nothing else. If you are driving them close to their positions and not doing an air drop, then why not leave film/holders in them as well? You could swap out the exposed images for the fresh film, then when you are driving to pick up the cache containers, you'd get the film that needs processing.

9-Jul-2004, 09:29
"When I graphed this in excel"

Type A, huh doc?!?!? ;-)

Kerry L. Thalmann
9-Jul-2004, 10:05
When I graphed this in excel the weight for the readyloads is equal to the weight of the holders/film at 70 sheets. Factor in the changing bag and you're up to 84 sheets. I did account for the boxes too. This included one extra as the first in-box.

On a typical 3 - 4 night trip I carry 75 sheets of film. I repackage my Quickloads/Readyloads 25 to a box and discard the instructions and inner packaging in favor of a ZipLoc bag (to keep out dust and moisture). This saves some weight (75 sheets packaged this way hardly weighs more than 60 sheets in the original packaging) and the bulk of a fourth box. I think if you re-do your calculation with the Quick/Readyloads packaged in this manner the break even point probably pushes out to around 100 sheets (four boxes at 25/box) - enough for a five or six day trip with no need to reload holders and battle with dust. If you increase the number of holders to 8 or 10, the break even point probably pushes out to the point where you can go a week or more with Quick/Readyloads for the same weight as conventional holders with loose sheets and reloading once per day.

I don't do a lot of longer trips these days, but when I do, if possible I set-up caches containing food, fuel, batteries, clothes and film. If you do this, you can also mail exposed film home so you don't end up carrying it on your back for the entire trip. If you mail it to your lab, you can have your developed film waiting for you when you return home.

I think dust could be dealt with by carefully selecting when to change the film in the holders.

Have you tried this? Even in the comfort of my home, I have to be meticulous with my cleaning and loading procedures or dust becomes a problem. I gave up trying to reload holders in the field years ago. Under the less than ideal conditions encountered in the field, dust can become a real problem.

What about a 15-20 day trip like trekking in Nepal?

Hire a porter, take more film (Quickloads/Readyloads) than you'll think you need, and enjoy the trip. Something like that would be a once-in-a-lifetime trip for me. I'd rather spend my time enjoying the scenery, the local culture and taking pictures than reloading film holders, worrying about dust and using up that precious 10th sheet just before that once in a lifetime shot.

If you're really concerned about weight, consider combining Quickloads/Readyloads with a roll film holder. For the past couple years, I've been shooting some 6x12 in addition to my standard 4x5. While the 6x12 back adds about a pound of weight, the weight of the film is almost nothing (6 shots per roll at about an ounce per roll of 120 film). This can also save cost as the price of 120 film and processing is much lower per shot than 4x5.

As far as your total pack weight of 30 lbs., it might be doable for short trips, but on longer trips I would think the weight of the food would push it beyond that. I have no problem geting my pack weight down in the low 40s for two and three day trips, and that includes a heavy old 6 1/2 lb. external frame pack - and assumes summer weather conditions. When I go in the colder months, the weight goes up due to a heavier sleeping bag, warmer clothes, more fuel, etc. Years ago, I routinely carried 65 - 70 lbs. I have no desire to do that again. Compared to that, even 40 - 45 lbs. feels featherweight. If I dich the heavy old pack and some of my other antiquated gear, I could probably get down to about 35 lbs. for shorter summer trips with a full 4x5 outfit.


Kerry L. Thalmann
9-Jul-2004, 10:10
About the Quickload, it might be better to take two holders rather than one. I you have a problem with a unique holder, your journey is over. Otherwise, you can use the spare one. Take the weight of two into account.

I actually carry a second holder when I travel, but it stays in my vehicle in my "spare parts kit". I've been using the same Quickload holder for about 12 years. In that time, I've shot many thousands of sheets of film with it and it still works as reliably as the day I bought it. My spare holder is still unused in it's original box in the bottom of my spare parts kit. I may need it someday, but in my experience other items (like the camera) are more likely to fail than my Quickload holder.


Harley Goldman
9-Jul-2004, 16:47

On several occasions, you mentioned how you have cut down from a 65 lb pack to 40-45 lb.s on a multi-day trip. I basically have the same camera setup as you, a lighter tripod, a little less film, but my pack still weighs 65 pounds for a 4 night trips. I figure camera gear and tripod, plus a light tent (4.5 lb), clothes, light sleeping bag, therma rest pad, bear cannister (required in most eastern Sierra locations), minimal clothes, some water and light food. How the heck do you get that light?

It is a little off topic from Quickloads vs. film holders, but I am very curious. At least it relates to pack weight.

Leigh Perry
9-Jul-2004, 16:56
Thanks to all for all the info.

The other side of the coin is the film flatness issue ('http://largeformatphotography.info/lfforum/topic/498788.html'). I'm currently only using Quickloads and Readyloads, but my careful selection of sharp lenses seems a little pointless if sharpness is thrown away at the last link in the chain: imperfect film flatness.

Kerry, what are your thoughts on this?

Thanks, Leigh.

Kerry L. Thalmann
9-Jul-2004, 18:40

About five or six years ago, I started to get real serious about reducing my pack weight. As far as the photo equipment goes, it's now down to less than 15 lbs. total (including tripod, film and the daypack I carry it in). You can see most of what I carry at:


Not show is the tripod and head. The outfit shown in that photo weighed around 17 lbs. Since that time, I've gone with a lighter tripod head (Velbon PH-253) that saved 1/2 lb., and smaller, lighter light meter (Gossen DigiSix) that saved nearly another 1/2 lb. and a lighter darkcloth (Ebony ultralight model) that saved over a pound. Back when I was carrying a 65 lb. pack, my total for camera gear was in the 22 - 25 lb. range. The biggest weight saving was the carbon fiber tripod. So, of the 20 - 25 lbs I've reduced 7 - 10 lbs. was in camera gear.

The next thing I did was tackle the heavier items in my camping kit - starting with the tent. My old tent weighed over 6 1/2 lbs. It's replacement wasn't cheap (Stevenson Warmlight 2 with side windows), but the total pack weight, including three titanium tent stakes is 3 lb. 1/2 oz. - a savings of 3 1/2 lbs (and a pound and a half lighter than your tent) - plus the Steveson is a much longer tent, which I appreciate. Ultralight tarp tents are all the rage with the ultralight crowd these days, but I have yet to see one that sets up as quick and easily as the Stevenson and is anywhere close to as bug and storm proof. My summer sleeping bag is a Western Mounteering Mitylite that weighs 1 lb. 10 oz. They have even lighter models now. This bag is only rated to 40 degrees, but I'm a warm sleeper and the Stevenson tent is also a warm tent. I can use this bag, in my tent, down to the high 20s with no problems. The coldest night I spent in it was 18 degrees on an October trip and that was too cold. I have a slightly heavier bag I use for cold weather camping. My sleeping pad is a Thermarest 3/4 model that weighs under a pound. For extra padding and insulation for my lower legs and feet, I use my extra clothes and rain gear under my sleeping bag.

For clothing, I don't take more than I need and use lightweight synthetics in layers. Typically nylon shorts or pants (I like the convertible pants with the zip off legs) and poly shirts. A lightweight fleece jacket for extra warmth doubles as a pillow at night. I carry very light rain gear (jacket and pants) that also serves to block the wind and as a top layer when it gets chilly.

I've also purged my camp kitchen of all but the essentials. I carry a single 0.6 liter titanium pot, a lexan spoon and a lightweight, single blade Gerber folding knife. That's all I use for cooking and eating. I only use the pot for boiling water - which I then pour into my freeze dried meals that I eat right out of the pouch they came in. Since no food gets cooked in the pot, I never bother to wash it . So, no detergent or pot scrubber. I use an Esbit stove and fuel tablets to boil my water. The stove weighs about 3 1/2 oz. and one tablet a day is usually enough (1/2 oz. per tablet - I carry a few extras for hot tea or soup when it's cold). For the food, I avoid heavy foods as much as possible. I prefer freeze dried and dehydrated foods. Until a few years ago, the selection was very limited, they were expensive, only avialable at backpacking stores, and frankly not very tasty. That has all changed for the better. Many of the items I now carry for food are bought at my neighborhood grovery store. I buy a lot of cup-o-soup and pasta items (Nile Spice, Knorr, etc.). To save weight and bulk, I repack them in ZipLoc freezer bags and toss the cups they come in. I usually eat dried granola for breakfast - available in the bulk food section in a variety of flavors. I do take some bread (usually a few mini bagels or some flatbread style tortillas) and a small cup of peanut butter, as well as beef jerky, raisins or dried fruit, etc. to eat for lunch.

I've also reduced the weight of the rest of my kit by weeding out things that didn't get used, or were redundant. I used to carry a small flashlight (with spare bulb and batteries) and a candle lattern (and a spare candle). Now I just carry an LED head lamp for all my lighting needs. The LEDs aren't fragile like a filament bulb, and the battery life is around 100 hours. So, no need for spare batteries. I also carry an ultralight water filter that weighs about 8 oz., a small personal first aid kit, compass, cell phone, map, etc.

Some ultralight gear is expensive (my tent, good down sleeping bags, etc.), but many of the items are quite affordable (Nesbit stove, LED headlamp, etc.). I'm sure if I went back through my kit, I could cut even more weight these days. The options have really grown for the ultralight backpacker over the last five years. I'm reluctant to give up my old faithful 6 1/2 lb. external frame Kelty Super Tioga, but it will probably be the next to go. With more ultralight packs showing up on the market every year, I'm sure I'll eventually find one that meets my needs (and doesn't cost a small fortune). That will likely save me another 3 - 3 1/2 lbs.


Scott Atkinson
9-Jul-2004, 22:59
Sorry to enter this late, but I just got back from a trip. For me, Readyloads have been a godsend...when using holders on a long trip, I started to see a steady accumulation of what I call the "grunge factor"--dirt in the holders, dirt in the changing bag, static electricity in dry climates that showed up as nasty blue streaks on chrome film. I like to bracket and code the sheets, then run the firsts and make adjustments on a second or even third run. When using standard 4x5 sheet film, keeping track of all those loose sheets--and figuring out what's what later--is a pain. Not to mention fending off the mosquitoes that are divebombing your face on a hot night while your only defense--your hands--are buried in the changing bag.

That said, the problem with readyloads for me when backpacking is the BULK. I use 140-150+ sheets on a typical 5-7 day trip. 8, 9, or 10 boxes take up a lot of space in the pack! So later this month, I'm trying out another idea: a 220 Horseman back on my Arca 6x9. Mucho weight savings, space savings, and cost savings. 220 backs are hard to find. I have a 6x9 and I'm waiting for a 6x7 (Jeff?). Obviously, I can't alter development, so everything will run Normal. Will the results be good enough? We'll see.